Supreme Court Ruling Could Reshape Campaign Finance Laws

Roll Call Photos/Newscom

The Supreme Court could rule this morning on a case that may radically reshape our campaign-finance laws, opening the door for unrestricted amounts of corporate money to flow into American politics.

In a nutshell: The FEC ruled that the conservative group Citizens United (CU) was prohibited by the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law from airing a negative movie about Hillary Clinton. CU received corporate donations and the movie advocated the defeat of a political candidate within 60 days of an election. CU is arguing that the FEC ruling violated its freedom of speech, and that the relevant provision of McCain-Feingold is unconstitutional.Campaign-finance experts say the Supreme Court has given indications that it may not settle for simply striking down the narrow provision at issue. Rather, it may rule more broadly, declaring unconstitutional all efforts to ban corporations and unions from financing political ads through their general treasuries.

Such a ruling would gut campaign-finance laws, and present advocates of regulation with a major challenge in limiting the flow of corporate money into campaigns.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has said such a ruling would take the country “not just back to a pre-McCain-Feingold era, but back to the era of the robber barons in the 19th century.”

We may know whether that’s going to happen in the next half hour. We’ll keep you posted.

Late Update: Well, that was quick. The court has said it won’t rule on the case today, SCOTUSblog reports. Our campaign-finance laws live to fight another day.

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